It is expensive. It hurts. I don’t have time for it. It is hard work. I don’t want to waste someone’s time.
I get it. I know all of the reasons that people use to avoid coming to see myself and my team. I’ve heard every one in the book over the last 15 years. For the most part I understand a lot of them and have on occasion used them myself (mostly to avoid the dentist, I hate going to the dentist). However the one thing that all of these excuses have in common is they generally come from the clients that are more challenging to treat.
This challenge might not be what you are expecting. Clients who are often our hardest cases are not so because they have a poor attitude or because they don’t want to get better but rather they have put off coming to see us for too long. By the time they finally make their way in to ask for help, the small problem has grown exponentially. Now not only do we have to deal with the initial injury or condition but we also have to sort out the effects of everything the client has been doing to compensate for that initial injury. Often those complications are not only physical but behavioural and habitual, hence the much greater challenge.
Do you know what is expensive? Paying to come see me for six months instead of six weeks.
It hurts? I guarantee not nearly as much or with the same impact as chronic degenerative pain.
You don’t have time? You will when you aren’t able to play with your kids or have to take time off work.
Am I being a bit dramatic? A little, but the point is that delaying self care only makes all of the issues you were trying to avoid worse. Addressing an issue early usually leads to swift resolution, a decrease subsequent recurrence and in some cases early detection of a more serious problem. I once sent a woman back to her family physician for imaging of her mid back after she presented with a few red flags that made me uneasy. The result was they found a malignant tumour on her spine. Luckily we caught it in the early stages and she did very well but you can imagine how much more serious an issue it could have been had she waited 6 months brushing her discomfort under the rug.
So when should you come in? This is a question I get often because no one wants to waste my time with something they think will likely go away on it’s own. I can promise that I’ve yet to be offended by someone doing their due diligence or being proactive. I encourage it. However, if you still remain unsure, I recommend seeking out help in the following instances:
Pain lasting longer than 5 – 7 days
Pain is your personal alarm system that something is not right in your body. It is important to listen to our internal cues and ultimately figure out the cause of that pain.
Pain that rates higher than a 4-5/10
This is tricky because pain rating is subjective and life in general has aches and pains that are normal. However, if you pain rates higher than a headache or more than your personal experience of normal discomfort, get it checked out.
The quality of the pain is unusual
The dull ache of a bruise probably isn’t reason to rush in but some types of pain set off alarm bells. Visit a health professional if your pain is burning, electric, numbing or associated with pins and needles. It could be nothing serious but why chance it.
The pain is unremitting
If your pain does not change with position, medication, ice or other comfort measures it is worth looking at further.
You are having difficulty walking or moving
That’s bananas! You can’t walk! Have someone look at it.
You are having difficulty with sensation
That’s bananas! You can’t feel things! Have someone look at it.
Something doesn’t look right
Discolouration, deformity or unusual swelling can all be signs of more serious injury and should be evaluated.
Your gut tells you something is wrong
Seldom is our intuition wrong. If something doesn’t feel right or you just have a sense that something else might be going on, trust your hunch. You know your own body and it is important to be your own advocate.
In all of these situations, early intervention is effective in accurately assessing the issue and providing timely and directed care. It is also the fastest way to get back to feeling well and doing the activities you love.
Still not sure? You are always welcome to call your local health care provider and ask. We can’t provide a diagnosis or care over the phone without examining a client but we can reassure you that your decision to seek out help is appropriate and in my experience it is never a waste of time.
Melanie Stevens Sutherland
Clinic Director / Registered Manipulative Physiotherapist HonsBKin, MSc(PT), FCAMT
Melanie is a graduate of McMaster University and brings 15 years of experience as a sport physiotherapist to RPM. She has enjoyed a long tenure working with active populations at prestigious sport medicine clinics. She enjoys treating all patients with orthopaedic concerns and is passionate about preventing injury and illness through healthy lifestyle. As a new Mom, her most recent area of interest is working with pre- and post-natal women to manage pain associated with pregnancy by helping restore their core strength.
When she is not treating clients, she can be found chasing her two small children around Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood where she lives with her husband.